Shoes are again squeaking on the basketball court, baseballs and softballs are popping into gloves, soccer balls are being juggled and tight spirals are being thrown down the field again.
“There’s nothing like the sound of a basketball on a gym floor,” Grand Junction High School girls basketball coach Sam Provenza said. “It was a nice, familiar sound.”
District 51 athletic teams got the go-ahead last week to move to Stage 2 in the re-introduction of summer workouts and practices, which include the use of footballs, baseballs, softballs, volleyballs, basketballs, lacrosse and soccer balls.
That means open gym sessions for basketball and volleyball teams, which had been limited to conditioning drills outdoors in Stage 1. Athletic directors are juggling schedules to give each team court time — and leave time between those sessions to disinfect the gym floor. Every ball used must stay within its pod, and they’re all cleaned after each session.
With a lack of team camps offered by colleges this summer, especially indoor camps, high school coaches are stressing even more fundamentals until they’re allowed to scrimmage.
Pod sizes are limited to 15 in all sports, and making sure pods and players within those pods keep their distance can be a challenge. Central had its first voluntary football workout under Stage 2 on Tuesday evening, with coach Brandon Milholland and his assistants reminding players to give each other space. To do that, he went back to an elementary school method in gym class — hold your arms out to your side and make sure you don’t touch your neighbor’s hand.
The hour-long session resembled an early season football practice, with players in shorts and T-shirts running modified 7-on-7 drills, passing their way down the field.
“The kids are just grateful right now to get out and run routes and catch and throw the ball and see each other,” Milholland said. “They’ve been cooped up with their parents, and their parents are going, ‘Yes, you’re going to that, you bet you are. You need to get out of the house.’ We had a great turnout. We tried to separate them so they’re in their pods and staying in their pods.”
The Warriors had 44 players at Tuesday’s workout, clearly happy they were done with conditioning-only sessions.
“A lot more people showed up,” sophomore quarterback Devin Hickey said. He and senior QB Michael Gohn got in plenty of throws in the workout as they and their receivers and running backs started shaking off the rust and learning routes they hope they’ll run in the fall.
“It feels great,” Gohn said of having a practice that includes footballs instead of conditioning drills, which was the emphasis under Stage 1. As long as things keep progressing, the athletes are optimistic for the fall season.
“That’s pretty much the hope,” Gohn said.
After the workout, the coaches hosed down the footballs with a cleaning solution — they dried quickly under the evening sun on a day that temperatures reached the mid-90s — and bagged them up, ready for the next session.
Milholland, too, is hopeful the Colorado High School Activities Association gives schools the OK to play in the fall.
“I hope so, I do. (Not playing) would be devastating for a lot of people,” he said, “especially the kids.”
Athletes are becoming more accustomed to the “new normal,” which includes washing their hands before and after workouts, daily temperature checks and symptom screening questions.
“We have a hand-washing station outside the gym,” Provenza said. “The kids get out of their car or their parent’s car and go right to the station and wash their hands. That’s the norm, which is good. We tell them if we follow the rules and things are doing well, we get to move forward. Otherwise, we’re backing up.”